Working to make government more effective


What’s needed to make public services more responsive to local, citizen needs?

Nehal Davison explains.

The Institute for Government has launched a new project exploring precisely this question. Nehal Davison explains the genesis behind the project.

Everyone knows that public services are going to be hit hard over the next few years, with further budget cuts, an ageing population and rising demand. Changing demographics alone equates to around £400 million of extra spending needed per year. But we also know that these challenges will be more easily met by joining up public services and targeting early intervention. The problem is that Whitehall funding, policy and commissioning processes can often create unhelpful, artificial divides between services on the ground. There have been repeated attempts to tackle this issue, either through devolving power and funding to local actors (for example, initiatives such as Total Place, Community Budgets and “Devo Manc”) or national programmes that integrate local spending around vulnerable groups (such as the Troubled Families Programme). Local partners are also pushing ahead with new approaches to service integration. The Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark partnership to tackle youth unemployment and the Tri-borough partnership in West London are just a couple of recent examples. However, while there is a huge diversity of models, there is only limited understanding of whether any of these actually drive improvements on the ground and how to share learning and best practice more widely. This is why the Institute for Government has launched a new project to capture citizen experiences of public services at a local level. As part of this work, we will explore:
  • What attempts have been made to integrate public service delivery at a local level and make it more responsive to citizen needs?
  • What models and practices seem to have worked or be working well, from a citizen perspective?
  • What underpins these (examining factors relating to political, economic and cultural differences as well as organisational leadership, structures, incentives and skills)?
  • What are the best mechanisms for spreading these models and practices?
Over the next year, we will focus on a few local areas where there are active efforts to devolve and integrate service provision within England – specifically looking at health and social care, and employment and skills. We will speak to service users, front-line professionals, managers and service leaders to dig into the organisational skills and ways of working that are needed to support further integration of services around user needs. We are telling people about this work now because we want to work with partners to explore how learning can be shared more widely, so that those trying out new approaches have a better understanding of what has been tried before and ways of building the conditions for success. If you’re interested in hearing more please follow our project webpage for new developments and outputs and please do get in touch: Dr. Jo Casebourne (Programme Director): Nehal Davison (Project manager):
Institute for Government

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